Introduction: Garage Overhead Shelf

Picture of Garage Overhead Shelf

Our garage isn't very wide, but has 10.5' ceilings. This gives us a lot of room to store things up high and out of the way. Since my plan was to hang yard tools below the shelf, I decided to anchor the shelves from the ceiling to keep the space below open. Also, I had to leave some space to work around the garage door track.

Supplies:

  • 3" construction screws
  • 2.5" construction screws
  • 1" construction screws
  • 2"x4" beams (qty depends on size of your shelves)
  • 1/2" plywood (qty depends on the size of your shelves)

Tools Used:

  • Impact driver
  • Saw (circular or table)
  • Level (18" is what I used)
  • Plum bob, w/ enough string to hang lower than your shelf height
  • Ladder
  • Measuring tape w/ pencil
  • String, longer than the length of your shelf

Step 1: Planning

Picture of Planning

I used Microsoft 3D builder to plan my shelf design and determine the amount of lumber and plywood needed.

Attached are screen shots of my design, and the 3D builder files.

I based my design on the depth of my shelves, space available around the garage door track, ceiling height, what I would be storing on them, and how high they needed to be so I could walk under them.

My final shelves measured 132" wide, 17.5" deep, and the shelf surface was 40" from the ceiling.

Not knowing what I may need the shelves for in the future, I over-engineered the support structure.

NOTE: Be sure you take into account where your studs are located for the wall and ceiling. Wall studs are typically 16" apart, while ceilings may be 24". I was fortunate that our house is new and I took pictures of every wall before drywall was put up.

Step 2: Measure & Mark for Shelf

Picture of Measure & Mark for Shelf

Be sure you are able to take into account any variations in your wall that could result in slight measurement differences.

Tools for this step: measuring tape, pencil, string

Measure the distance down from the ceiling for each end of your shelf, and then the center.

Using the string, secure it at both of your end marks and validate the center mark is along the same line. Be sure the string is pulled tight. This is a quick check. We will validate it more accurately later.

Step 3: Shelves for Shelf

Picture of Shelves for Shelf

Tools for this step: level, impact driver, pencil, saw

Cut three squares from your 2x4s. These will be secured at the ends and middle of where you marked your shelves.

Think of these as little shelves for your big shelf. While they will give some level of support, they are more useful for placing the shelf later and ensuring it sits level on the wall.

Use the 3" screws to secure the FIRST block in place. Place one screw, verify the block is level, then place the second screw.

Once you have TWO blocks in place, lay one 2x4 across both and validate they are level.

Repeat the above steps for the final block.

Congrats! You have a level place to secure your shelf once it is built! Let's move on to that part.

Step 4: Build Shelf Framee

Picture of Build Shelf Framee

Tools for this step: measure tape, pencil, saw, impact driver, speed square.

Cut the lumber for the length of your shelf. If necessary, join two pieces to get the necessary total length.

OPTIONAL: To join two lengths, use a 7" length of 2x4, and secure both ends with your 2.5" screws (two for each joining piece).

Next, cut your end pieces to square off the frame. Using your 3" screws, secure each end, making sure your frame is square with each step.

Finally, cut your remaining cross supports and secure in place.

Step 5: Measuring for Ceiling Blocks

Picture of Measuring for Ceiling Blocks

Tools for this step: Plum bob, pencil, measuring tape

In the next step you will secure blocks to the ceiling for attaching vertical supports. But first you need to mark the locations for those blocks.

If you have perfectly square walls, then you can easily measure the distance from the wall to determine where to place the blocks on the ceiling. However, I found some variation in my walls along the ceiling and needed to be sure I was placing things in the right place.

To be sure I was placing the blocks the correct distance from the walls, I used a plum bob.

While holding the line from the ceiling, I aligned the string with a mark I placed on a white wooden rod. I then marked the distance on the ceiling.

NOTE: My center mark was 1/4" different from one end, and 1/8" different from the other end. This is why I used the plum bob, to eliminate the variability from the ceiling not being perfectly flat or square in all places.

NOTE: Don't own a plum bob? No problem! Just attach something small and heavy to the end of some thin string.

Step 6: Ceiling Blocks

Picture of Ceiling Blocks

Tools for this step: saw, measuring tape, pencil, impact driver

For this step you will be securing the ceiling blocks in place.

Two Methods: Your vertical support aligns with ceiling joists, your vertical support does not align with a ceiling joist

Method 1: Vertical support aligns with a ceiling joist

- Cut one 7" and one 3.5" length of 2x4

- Secure the 7" length to the ceiling joist, using four 3" screws, as shown in the image

- Secure the 3.5" length to the bottom of the 7" length, using two 3" screws, as shown in the image

Method 2: Vertical support does not align with a ceiling joist

- Determine the width between your joists, measuring from center of joist to center of joist, then add 3"

- Cut a 2x4 length for the above step, and a 3.5" piece

- Secure the longer piece to ceiling joists at both ends, using two 3" screws at each end. This piece will sit parallel to the wall.

- Secure the 3.5" length to the bottom of the longer piece, so it aligns with the location of your future vertical support. Use two 3" screws.

Step 7: Vertical Supports

Picture of Vertical Supports

Tools for this step: measuring tape, pencil, saw, impact driver, level

Cut your three vertical supports. These should line up with the bottom of your shelf, once it is in place.

You will secure them to the ceiling blocks using four 3" screws. You will place two screws into each piece you secured in the ceiling. I recommend placing one screw, then use the level to validate the support is perpendicular to the ceiling.

Step 8: Secure Your Shelf in Place

Picture of Secure Your Shelf in Place

Tools for this step: level, impact driver

NOTE: I suggest having a second person to help with this step.

Life the shelf frame and set it on the three blocks you secure to the wall. Make sure it lines up at both ends.

Use two 3" screws to secure the shelf frame to studs in the wall, at only one spot towards the center. You will secure it in additional locations later.

Staring in the center, validate the shelf is level. Using four 2.5" screws, secure the shelf to the center of your vertical supports. Repeat for the two additional vertical supports, validating it is level before securing.

Now that the shelf is secured in multiple locations, go back and secure the shelf to the wall in any location there is a stud. Use two 3" screws for each location.

Step 9: Shelf Surface

Picture of Shelf Surface

Tools for this step: Saw, measuring tape, pencil, impact driver

Using a table or circular saw, cut down your plywood to fit your shelf.

Since I don't have a table saw, I used an extra 2x4 and clamps to make myself a saw guide.

Secure the plywood in place using the 1" screws.

Step 10: Load Your Shelf!

Picture of Load Your Shelf!

Congratulations on finishing your shelf! Time to load it up with your stuff!

Comments

engrstephens (author)2017-11-26

Did this. Used spax lags. Worked great

Ralphxyz (author)2017-11-24

I have been thinking of doing this before the sheetrock went up.

That of course means lots of cuts and fittings of the sheet rock.

Lately I have been "think" of doing the shelves after the sheetrock went up

but was not sure about the strength. Thanks for the Instructable, now I no longer have any excuses.

Ralph

QuentinB1 (author)2017-11-24

For things like this, don't forget that nails have a MUCH higher shear strength than screws do. The screws into the ceiling are under "pull", which they excel at, but the ones that hold the support posts are under shear tension, which they're not great at.

DavidC493 (author)2017-11-21

I built these a few years ago, but remember that wood has great strength under compression, but not tension. I learned the hard way, lost some XMas ornaments, but then replaced vertical supports with two-inch metal straps with punched holes. Much stronger, safer, and slimmer.

jpmarth (author)DavidC4932017-11-22

Just follow the rhyme “Wood squished is strong, stretched is weak, so double your braces to keep strength at its peak.” This is why I screw the top and bottom with four screws and into two pieces of wood.

tminer02 made it! (author)2017-11-21

Love use of Microsoft 3D Builder - mine was done in Visio.

The modification I had made was utilizing Superstrut and Threaded Rod for my ceiling connections vs. wood.

Great project for storage - thanks for sharing!

jpmarth (author)tminer022017-11-21

Visio is a great tool as well! I find it handy when planning projects that involve wiring.

RussPastuch (author)2017-11-21

Same, over the garage doors. Lots of no longer wasted space.

jpmarth (author)RussPastuch2017-11-21

Always nice to get stuff off the floor so it’s easier to move things around!

biohazarus (author)2017-11-21

Hi, did really similar in my garage, just one little thing my ceiling tape mark (or screw holes) were where strapping are, which should be standard. There are not giving any indication as were the joist/trust are, they are usually perpendicular to the strapping. Strapping is not as strong as the joist themselves (usually 2x1). I had access to the attic, so went in it and punched a hole thru the gypsum so my 2x4 got connected to the trust/joist.

jpmarth (author)biohazarus2017-11-21

In my case, I have pictures of every wall and ceiling before it was sheetrocked. That made it easy to find proper places for securing to the wall and ceiling.

BradD11 (author)2017-11-21

Cool, I put mine above my garage door. Shorter but out of the way and utilize dead space.

jpmarth (author)BradD112017-11-21

Planning to use that space down the road as well! I can put deeper shelves over the doors, but didn’t need the space yet.

MillennialDIYer (author)2017-11-20

How would one calculate how much load can be put on these shelves?

jpmarth (author)MillennialDIYer2017-11-21

Here is what I use. Note the target sag. http://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator/

seamster (author)2017-11-20

Very nice! I made shelves in my garage almost the exact same way. They're super handy - thank you for sharing how you made yours :)

About This Instructable

6,547views

98favorites

License:

Bio: Still learning about everything. I have a long way to go.
More by jpmarth:Apple Watch & IPhone StandGarage Overhead ShelfPallet Nativity Stable
Add instructable to: